Last year, Griffith Review No. 52 presented some of the world’s leading thinkers to mark the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia by Imagining the Future. How do science and industry inform a future of constructive value? What current innovations are opening or perhaps closing the potential to overcome apathy and take that future seriously? And if the future is already upon us, what current actions are available to us to as workers and as citizens to shape it? Inspired, MUMA Director Charlotte Day was mobilised, immediately setting to work on a monumental show. A year later, Griffith Review Editor Julianne Schultz is there to offer opening night provocations that connect the work to its future potential.
What Charlotte proposes, however, explodes that potential: more than simply asking new questions, Future Eaters is a deliciously thrilling exhibition that recreates both past and future sensations of ideas yet to come.
Focusing on sculpture as that most durable of forms, Future Eaters’ artists offer a set of objects to serve as forecasters, time capsules, talismans, gestures and cautionary tales of a future we are invited to experience directly.
Slovenian artist Aleksandra Domanović welcomes us into the heart of the space with her Substances of human origin (Pose 1, 2, 3) (2015): three pairs of arms ostensibly gesturing in hyper-familiar elegance, but on closer observation, morphing robotically into hyper-real forms.
Scattered across the space are Swedish artist Nina Canell’s Brief Syllable pieces of acrylic-fossilised communications and electricity cables sliced and cubed, their voltage forever inert, their data forever silenced. A reminder that across our land and seas, subterranean cables connect our high-tech world in old-school metals of technologies obsolete the moment they’ve circumnavigated the globe – and as Australia’s NBN failure attests, our future communications are always dependent on the political choices of the past.
The MUMA galleries have not just been reimagined for Future Eaters, but architecturally reinterpreted by Damiano Bertoli in blaring Memphis hues. Fake columns expose fake structural integrity, announcing the fakeness that has become the contemporary world’s most recognisable truth.
Hater headlight (2015) by Norwegian artist Yngve Holen might blind you – but wouldn’t you take that risk in order to understand, just for one flash of a moment, the terror that fourteen-year-old Elijah Doughty must have felt in his final moments, killed in Kalgoorlie last year in a deliberate act by man who freely admitted to chasing him with his car? And when a WA court finds that man not guilty of manslaughter and instead sentences him to a three-year jail term for dangerous driving, shouldn’t we all stare into that headlight and imagine a different future?
Set against Bertoli’s pacifying green is an abstract shape by Holen made of plastic and steel and baked in car enamel. As a person with a brain condition, I shudder: is this the front plate of an MRI machine? The work’s name, Taxi B-EA 7766 kommt innerhalb von 2 minuten (2017), tells me that my taxi is on its way – and so I continue to shudder. On today’s technology, magnetic resonance imaging for brain diagnoses requires a coffin-like enclosure for the entire body, and the experience of being scanned by one can hardly be described as pleasant. I am startled at just how viscerally my body is experiencing this work.
Across the gallery, Australian artist Marley Dawson’s earnest machines stand in a posse of three, whirring and clicking and sliding away, working diligently to a pattern that each visitor tries patiently to discern. Weights, coils, little flashing lights, unexpected movements: what is happening here? Is our environment being measured? Are our movements being watched? Are we being evaluated? Are the machines receptive to us, or hostile? What are they planning for us? And what if what they have in mind for us isn’t anything at all?
Who are the future eaters? Is it those industries so focused on immediate profit that they’ve already destroyed our global environment? Is it those politicians so focused on immediate poll results that they’ve already destroyed our national conscience? Is it capitalism itself? Is it us – all of us – in every social and commercial choice we make, every tap we turn, every power switch we set to the ‘on’ position, every voice we ignore, every slur we tolerate, every right we acquiesce?
Charlotte Day’s Future Eaters compels us to regurgitate the world we take for granted, rethinking our contented consumption to imagine the forms, the machines, the sounds and the colours that will outlive us all.
Future Eaters at MUMA: 22 July – 23 September 2017
Curator: Charlotte Day
Exhibition design: Damiano Bertoli
Artists including: Hany Armanious (AUS); Benjamin Armstrong (AUS); Damiano Bertoli (AUS); Nina Cannell (SWE); Marley Dawson (AUS); Aleksandra Domanović (SVN); Hannah Donnelly (AUS); Alex Dordoy (GBR); Lewis Fidock & Joshua Petherick (AUS); Mira Gojak (AUS); Guan Xiao (CHN), Yngve Holen (NOR); Alex Israel (USA); Magali Reus (NLD); Anna Uddenberg (SWE); Anicka Yi (KOR)
IMAGE: Nina Canell, Brief Syllable (Thick) (2016). All photographs by Esther Anatolitis.